Ohio County Jail Faces Increased Liability Due to Numerous Lawsuits
by Ed Lyon
The Montgomery County Jail in Dayton, Ohio faces liabilities exceeding $10 million, as lawsuits continue to multiply.
Former chief deputy Scott Landis testified to having no memory of any of the incidents that gave rise to a spate of lawsuits over issues ranging from wrongful deaths and uses of force to medical indifference and conditions of confinement. In response to various deposition questions, Landis pleaded the Fifth Amendment at his attorney’s direction rather than provide answers.
Despite Landis’ testimony that training sessions for jailers were never held, Sheriff Phil Plummer stated: “We meet and exceed all training standards.... We meet and exceed all policies – national, state, local policies. So we’re on par with all that stuff. Short of the proper resources, the employees [at the jail] are doing a good job.” However, the following “dirty dozen” cases involving incidents at the Montgomery County Jail indicate otherwise.
Robert Richardson: Jailers who responded to Richardson’s cell to provide medical aid placed him on his stomach, cuffed his hands behind him and then knelt on his back, “essentially” crushing him to death, according to a still-pending lawsuit that is scheduled to go to trial in January 2019.
Robert Linkous: Following just one day at the jail, Linkous died from heart failure after repeatedly telling jailers, “I’m short of breath and can barely breathe” and “I am having chest pains,” as noted in a sheriff’s memo. His family has filed a wrongful death suit.
Emily Evans: Jail video showed Evans being slammed to the floor by Sergeant Eric Banks, causing “multiple facial fractures.” Deputy Thomas Freehan and Banks were the only defendants in the case, which settled for $380,000 in November 2017.
Amber Swink: Swink was pepper-sprayed by Sergeant Judith Sealey before and during placement in a restraint chair. Her lawsuit settled for $375,000. [See: PLN, Aug. 2018, p.35]. Sealey has since taken a disability retirement and later pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor assault charge in Dayton’s Municipal Court. The FBI is investigating the case. Video of Swink being pepper-sprayed reportedly disappeared from county records; officials claimed it was stolen by former jail Sgt. Eric Banks, who accused staff of a cover-up.
Charles Wade: While confined in a restraint chair, Wade was pepper-sprayed twice by Sergeant John Eversole. He remained restrained for two hours and 38 minutes after being sprayed because he had accused jail staff of violating his rights, which Eversole deemed “continued disorderly behavior.” A trial is scheduled to begin in January 2019.
Joseph Guglielmo: Guglielmo, a homeless veteran, was beaten in his cell by four jailers while two others stood in front of a video camera. He spent several months in a coma and is now wheelchair-bound, in a vegetative state and lives in a nursing home. A sheriff’s investigation cleared the guards of wrongdoing. The case remains pending; in June 2018, a federal magistrate judge found the Montgomery County prosecutor’s office had acted unprofessionally when it attempted to depose Doug Brannon, one of the attorneys representing Guglielmo.
Daryl Wallace: Jail video showed guard Jerrid Campbell mercilessly beating Wallace for complaining about not having hot water in his cell. The case settled for $58,000 in November 2017. Campbell was later fired – not for assaulting Wallace, but for making a racial slur against Sheriff Plummer among other reasons.
Marsha Pate-Strickland: Surveillance video showed jailer David Stemp violently swinging 60-year-old Strickland around, slamming her right shoulder and arm to the floor because the elderly woman had requested milk instead of juice with her breakfast. The case settled for $75,000. [See: PLN, May 2018, p.53].
David O. Cooper: Cooper filed suit after he was denied a suitable mattress at the jail in 2012, saying the one he received had no stitching and was inflexible. He also said he was denied mental health care, received inadequate food and was Tasered, pepper-sprayed and assaulted by staff. The case went to trial in January 2018, and judgment was entered for the county. Cooper has since appealed to the Sixth Circuit.
Tonya Varney: Sergeant Thomas Freehan “shoved” 47-year-old Varney into a female waiting-area cell because she hesitated at the door after seeing what she believed to be a puddle of urine on the floor. Her pending lawsuit claims she suffered “permanent and debilitating” injuries that required a $90,000 hospital stay. No trial date has been set.
Jeffrey Day: Day was held at the jail for five days without medical treatment for a fractured hip and pelvis he sustained in an auto accident. Deputies accused him of obstructing justice for allegedly answering their questions untruthfully. Video from two separate areas of the jail showed Day struggling to walk due to his untreated injuries. The case remains pending.
Nicholas Alston and Keith Barber: Alston and Barber are representatives in a class-action suit challenging overcrowding and other conditions of confinement at the jail. Reviving claims in an earlier suit from 1989 that resulted in reforms, the case has been reassigned from Judge Thomas Rose to the judge who presided over the 1989 suit, Walter Rice.
In addition to the settlements mentioned above, Montgomery County had spent around $444,000 on litigation costs related to the jail as of January 2018. Perhaps, after spending a few million more, they will have an incentive to address the problems at the facility – including abusive staff members – to stem the mounting financial costs.